Sunday, 16 September 2018

Why Shenmue Deserves Attention On The Saturn Junkyard


So, we seem to have had a little bit of a kerfuffle over at the Saturn Junkyard in the month of August, when our favourite Saturn fan site changed it's name temporarily to The Shenmue Junkyard. Now why do a bunch of guys who claim to be devoted to the Sega Saturn, get all giddy about the HD re-release of a Dreamcast game on modern systems? The name change, podcast musings and overall distraction from the Saturn, has upset some of the valued members of our community and led them to question whether we're losing our way over at The Junkyard. So why is Shenmue of prime importance to every Saturn owner? Let's break it down...

In my humble opinion, Shenmue is the greatest videogame franchise ever. Yu Suzuki's masterpiece was unlike anything ever seen before in the world of gaming, presenting the first interactive open world environment that could be fully explored. NPCs would chat and answer questions (unless they were too busy or too tired) pigeons scattered as you walked towards them and life seemed to roll on with or without your interaction. The landscapes and settings were full of life, ambient noise and movement. The music was worthy of a concept album in it's own right. The whole production was dripping with culture, colour and class, and buzzed with "life". The story was a slow burner, built beautifully to a climax that seemed to be forever out of reach... until Shenmue 3 was announced as a Kickstarter project a couple of years ago. Since then, my own Shenmue enthusiasm has been brewing and intensifying at an alarming level, threatening to spill into my Saturn gaming routine and knock it completely off kilter. (It has!)

So let's explore the theory that Shenmue is inextricably linked to our favourite system... as much to do with the Saturn as it is to do with the Dreamcast.


Shenmue Is Actually A Virtua Fighter RPG!


When legendary game producer Yu Suzuki  of game developer "AM2" -  Daytona USA, Outrun, Hang On, Virtua Fighter etc - first formulated the idea for Shenmue, it was intended to be a game which fleshed out the back story of Akira Yuki, Virtua Fighter's spiky haired Bajiquan expert. 




The Virtua Fighter franchise was the first 3D fighting game, and as such had achieved phenomenal success  in Japan. A game detailing the origin story of Sega's fighting game characters would have  the potential to capitalise further on the brand's popularity. The idea was eventually abandoned, Shenmue's central villain Lan Di, also bears more than a passing resemblance to Virtua Fighter's Lau Chan. Despite the game morphing into a separate story, references to Virtua Fighter are littered throughout the game, as we shall see later on.




Shenmue Started Off On The Saturn!

You've probably seen the videos of a slightly less detailed, slightly more angular, slightly more Akira-like protagonist, walking through the streets of a slightly more grainy, slightly more pixelated version of Dobuita. This is "Project Berkley" the test runs for Yu Suzuki's opus that eventually appeared on Sega's subsequent system. The video has led many Saturn owners to fantasise about playing the game on the Saturn, but as Shenmue and Shenmue II required several GD Roms to pack in a game of such huge landscapes, vast roster of characters and ambitious scope. Surely one would have needed a suitcase full of discs to play the game on a Saturn. But both myself and the Southern Sega Gentleman aspire to one day control Ryo Hazuki on the Saturn, and play the demo versions of the game that forever teases us on YouTube...




Ryo Has A Saturn In His House!

The game of Shenmue starts off in the Hazuki household, in the dojo to be precise. (Do all Japanese houses have dojos???) But the action soon switches to Ryo's fully explorable house. I'll never forget the joy of opening a cabinet in the living room and pulling out a beautiful, grey Japanese Saturn. That just blew my mind the first time I experienced it.
This is of course a complete anachronism... the Saturn wouldn't appear until eight years after the game's timeline starts, but we'll gloss over that particular inconsistency, What is even better than this Easter Egg appearing, is the fact that the Saturn in your house allows you to play fully working editions of Hang On or Space Harrier in  the comfort of your living room without incurring any damage to your Hong Kong ticket budget...



You Can Win Saturn Discs In The Tomato Convenience Store In Dobuita!

So you've found your Saturn, but where are the games? Well they're in the Tomato Convenience Store, waiting for you to win them. Buy an item like a cassette, a caramel bar, a packet of chips or a chocolate bar and you will get the opportunity to draw a raffle ticket. If you're me, you'll never win anything, but if you are you, (and I assume you are) you might win a Sega Game such as Space Harrier. The Saturn is known for it's ability to bring the arcade experience into the home - and in Shenmue it's no different. Pop the game into your Saturn and away you go!




You Can Win Saturn Themed Capsule Toys!

Both Virtua Fighter and Virtua Fighter Kids have their own capsule toy machines dispensing tiny figurines of your favourite Saturn fighters. As well as the cast of the VF series and their childlike iterations, you can find capsule toys of NiGHTs and Sonic,  the Hornet from Daytona, a collection of Virtual On mechs, as well as other iconic Sega characters and machines. 




You Can See Posters For Virtua Fighter In Fuku-san's Bedroom!

I've no idea who Fuku-san is... he seems to be some half-related, half-baked, half-wit whose sole purpose is to spill Ryo's secrets in a ridiculous fashion, to mouse-featured, party-pooping, worry-wart In-esan. His one redeeming feature is that he has Saturn game posters all over his wall. If it wasn't for this fact, Ryo would have pummelled his sorry ass into a pulp a long time ago...


You Can Play Virtua Fighter Themed Lucky Hit Stands!

Lucky hit is a great way to generate a little extra spending money or to bolster your capsule toy collection. Virtua Fighter and VF Kids themed stands ensure that any toy you collect will be a Saturn themed winner!


You Can See Shun Di In The Wise Men's Kung Fu Shop In Wan Chai!

As you search the streets of Wan Chai looking for musclebound martial artists to spill their secrets, 
you might want to ask the proprietor of Wise Men's Kung Fu if he knows where hulking testosterone filled warriors hang out... 
As you probe this supplier of martial arts equipment, you may well notice illustrations of a warrior demonstrating his Kung Fu stances to the customers. It's none other than Virtua Fighter's resident dipsomaniac pensioner, Shun Di.





Ryo's Dad Is Segata Sanshiro! 

The recently murdered Iwao Hazuki (Ryo's dad) was voiced by the veteran Japanese actor Hiroshi Fujioka, the man who also brought us our esteemed leader Segata Sanshiro, the Judo wearing bully who ensured all children played their Saturns, without taking a break for education and exercise.

It is this reason alone that justifies the column space here at the Saturn Junkyard. Any game that has a connection to our supreme overlord MUST be featured and celebrated at the Saturn Junkyard.

In all seriousness, the re-release of Shenmue and Shenmue II are worth a playthrough by any Saturn fan. It is Sega and AM2 through and through. If the game bores you and you feel that we shouldn't be giving it attention, it should all be over at the end of 2019... Until then, expect us to get more and more excited about Shenmue as the third chapter gets closer and closer to release!

12 comments:

The Southern Sega Gentleman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Southern Sega Gentleman said...

I'm in complete agreement with this write up!

Daniel Turner said...

great article father k! you may make a shenmue fan out of me yet!

jon lee said...

Im writing to yu to ask if in shenmue 3 we can drive anoab in the outrun car and the daytonD usa hornet just so we can continue to talk about it like the massive fan boys we are for anything uncle Yu produces :)

simon gale said...

Great article as usual ... only thing that ruined shenmue slightly for me was the clunky DC controls.

fatherkrishna said...

Why thank you sir!

fatherkrishna said...

Cheers Mr. T! 😎

fatherkrishna said...

Lol! 😎

fatherkrishna said...

And now theyre slick PS4 controls...

fatherkrishna said...

Very much appreciate the comments on the site! Cheers guys!

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lawrence Jones Jr said...

This write-up is Great I wish that the gaming community on a larger scale would embrace Shenmue. And not just the nostalgic factor. Personally I believe a Virtual Fighter RPG in its full its form is something that really was needed. I might be showing my age by having such a loving affinity for all of the arcade games but are in Shenmue. I hope Shenmue 3 can bring the financial holdings to Sony. So that there can be a Shenmue 4. Who knows what Shenmue could've been on the Saturn. Yu Suzuki's legacy will stand forever. 🙂